Wednesday, February 28, 2018

19 Signs Of Depression (And How To Cope With Them)




Friends, we don't have to look too far or for too long to realize the world is full of hurting people.  As a mental health professional, it is something I am acutely aware of, but even in my roles as mom and volunteer Young Life leader, I have seen and heard so many hurting people's stories.  I have listened as the person everyone thinks "has it all together" comes completely undone.  I have sat with countless teens and adults who express deep feelings of hopelessness and helplessness.  Today I want to share 19 signs of depression - some of which may surprise you.

This list is NOT meant as a tool for self-diagnosing, and you should know that mental health professionals are the only ones qualified to do the diagnosing.  The purpose of this post is to make people aware of some lesser-known signs of depression and give some ideas about how to cope with them.  You should also know that HAVING ONE OR TWO OR THREE OF THESE SYMPTOMS DOES NOT MEAN YOU HAVE MAJOR DEPRESSIVE DISORDER. Therapists consider these symptoms, not merely based on your experiencing them, but also in conjunction with how frequently you experience them, when you began experiencing them, and many other factors. For example, many of these signs of depression are part of a perfectly healthy and normal reaction to grief, loss, trauma, major life transition, hormonal fluctuations, medication changes or simply an off day/week/month.

Before we get to the signs of depression, let me this: depression is nothing to be ashamed of.  Some of the people nearest and dearest to me have struggled with depression, and in their darkest moments, some even considered that life wasn't worth it anymore.  It is so heartbreaking to think that anyone would or could end their precious life, but it is an inner struggle for so many people of all ages, races, genders, and religions.  Depression does not discriminate.  And again, as such, it is nothing to feel guilty about or be ashamed of. 

With all this in mind, allow me to share these signs of depression with you:

1.  Sad or depressed mood - If you're feeling sad or depressed much or all of the time, try making a list of your favorite coping skills and doing something on the list.  Schedule self-care into each day, practice gratitude, and challenge your negative thoughts.  

2.  Feelings of guilt - Remind yourself that your feelings are not facts.  Observe what you are experiencing as mindfully and objectively as you can.  Process through what you are feeling with a trusted friend or therapist.

3.  Irritable mood - Make a gratitude list, listen to an amazing playlist, get some exercise, and if possible, some fresh air.  

4.  Less interest or pleasure in usual activities - Be gentle with yourself.  See if there is at least one item on your list of favorite coping skills that you feel up to.  If you can't decide, number your list and randomly pick a number to just DO.  Remember that when you first change your behavior, you can then change your mood/mind.

5.  Withdrawing from or avoiding people - Again, be gentle with yourself.  If you need a little time alone, there's nothing wrong with that.  If you feel like the amount you are isolating yourself is unhealthy, take a book or a crossword puzzle to Starbucks or another public place like the library or a park.  You don't have to talk to anyone, but just being out in public is a step in the right direction.

6.  Finding it harder than usual to do things - See if you can break your to-do list down a bit.  Don't over-complicate things. Choose one thing on your list and just start there.  Or set a timer for 10 minutes and simply commit to a task until the timer goes off.  Then celebrate your awesomeness when it does! 

7.  Seeing yourself as worthless - Talk to someone you trust about how you are feeling.  Re-read old cards and notes from loved ones to remind yourself how others see you.  Again, remember...feelings are not facts.  Just because you feel worthless doesn't mean others see you that way or that you are.  You are priceless, my friend, and your presence is a gift to your loved ones.  You are also deeply and unconditionally loved 100% of the time.  

8.  Trouble concentrating - Write stuff down!  Immediately.  Make lists and try to stick to them.  Be gentle with yourself and don't expect perfection.  Remember that this is temporary, and with time and effort, your memory/concentration will likely return to normal.

9.  Difficulty making decisions - Decisions are difficult for 97% of people.  And that's ok.  Remember that most decisions are not going to make you or break you, even if it feels that way.  Almost everything can be undone or re-done.  Give yourself permission to go with your gut.  If all else fails, use the ol' random number generator again.  

10.  Suicidal thoughts - If you experience suicidal thoughts of any kind, report them to your therapist or doctor IMMEDIATELY.  Do not wait.  If you do not have a mental health professional in your life, call the National Suicide Prevention lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.  Your call is completely confidential and 100% free.  

11.  Recurrent thoughts of death - If you find yourself ruminating on thoughts having to do with death or dying, please contact a mental health professional right away.  Again, if you do not have someone to talk to call 1-800-273-8255.

12.  Spending time thinking about a suicide plan - If you have a plan or have been thinking about a plan for how to harm yourself (or anyone else), please call 911 immediately or go to your nearest emergency room.  With some support and guidance from the right professionals, you can get the help you need.  

13.  Low self-esteem - Try filling out a sheet like this to remember how amazing you are.  Talk to yourself the way you would a best friend or loved one.  Reach out to a trusted friend or therapist and be honest about how you are feeling.  Remember that people-pleasing and perfectionism are overrated.

14.  Seeing the future as hopeless - Start thinking about what you CAN do, instead of what you can't.  Can you alter your circumstances by changing your attitude or behavior?  Can you avoid your triggers or stressors?  Or can you accept things as they are and practice non-attachment to give yourself peace about the future.  Remember that no feeling is forever.  

15.  Self-critical thoughts - Remember that you are showing up and doing the best you can every single day and in every situation.  You're not perfect...no one is.  Try meditating daily and notice whether or not it helps you stay in the moment rather than constantly reminding yourself of your shortcomings.  

16.  Tiredness or loss of energy - Get outside and spend some time exercising.  Try a warm bubble bath or shower before bed. Limit  your screen time, caffeine and alcohol intake.  Ask your doctor if your loss of energy or fatigue could be caused by a vitamin deficiency or medical condition.  

17.  Significant weight loss or decrease in appetite (when you haven't been trying to lose weight) - Consult with your doctor about possible causes of sudden weight loss or decrease in appetite.

18.  Change in sleep pattern - difficulty sleeping or sleeping much more or less than usual - Consider whether or not you have had any change in activity level lately or if anxious thoughts about a recent stressful life situation could be causing your sleep troubles.  See #16 as well.  

19.  Decreased sexual desire - Try to consider any possible reasons for a decrease in your normal level of interest in sex.  Are you and your partner connecting in other ways?  Are you speaking each other's love language?  It's possible couples therapy could help.  If you can rule out relationship problems or stress, speak with your therapist or doctor.  

**This list of symptoms is taken from the book Mind Over Mood by Drs, Dennis Greenberger & Christine Padesky.


I hope this list has helped or encouraged someone out there today. These are just suggestions, and this list is not meant to be an exhaustive, cure-all for depression-related symptoms.  Use good judgment and confer with a mental health professional if you are the least bit concerned about the symptoms you or a loved one are experiencing.

Please don't hesitate to email me or comment with any questions you may have about depression or depression recovery.  You are not alone and recovery IS possible.  I've seen miracles happen, and believe me, they happen all the time.  God bless you, my friends!

   
   
   
   
   
   





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